The second season of Cheer, which is now streaming on Netflix, chronicles a tough time for Navarro College head coach Monica Aldama, who has to navigate the pressures of her newfound fame that results from season 1 being such a massive hit and keeping her team together amid scandals and the pandemic.
“When we did this documentary, we had no idea that it would blow up,” Aldama tells ET’s Lauren Zima. “It was shocking to me to see the perception that people would take away from different things, because I’ve always been so determined to do right, and not disappoint people.”
After Cheer became a sensation, Aldama came under a lot of scrutiny for her coaching methods, joining Dancing With the Stars, and accusations made by La’Darius Marshall caught the attention of social media.
Not only that, but she and Navarro cheer were filming season 2 the entire time, with the cameras capturing all the ups and downs that they were going through as a team, including the 2020 NCA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships being canceled by the coronavirus pandemic and breakout season 1 star Jerry Harris’ arrest on child pornography charges months later.
“I think this is a culmination of hit after hit after hit,” Aldama says of her toughest time as coach. “Dealing with a very mentally challenging time, where things are very different than they normally are, and, of course, the Jerry Harris news and the pandemic, it was a lot. It was challenge after challenge.”
When it specifically comes to Harris, whom she speaks out about on camera and is the subject of a powerful midseason episode that goes into the sexual abuse allegations made against him, Aldama says, “It was tough to watch. But, you know, having the victims be able to talk and tell their story is very important for our industry… As tough as it is to talk about, here it’s necessary in order for us to make our industry safer.”
While Harris denies the allegations made against him, he is currently behind bars as he awaits trial. It’s revealed on the show that he’s written letters to several people, including teammate Gabi Butler and Aldama. While Butler told ET that she has responded to Harris, Aldama has not written him back. “It’s just a very difficult situation,” she says.
However, when it comes to Marshall, whom she has a major falling out with during season 2, things are much better now. “We’re in a good place,” she says. “We have spoken quite a bit the past couple of months. Family is family. You go through ups and downs, and I love him.”
During a tense season 2, Marshall becomes upset after Aldama takes a brief absence from coaching to participate on Dancing With the Stars. During that time, former team member Kailee Peppers fills in as head coach and clashes with Marshall. He eventually leaves Navarro after an off-camera incident forces him off the team. That’s when Marshall took to social media to air his grievances over the way Aldama had led the team. It wasn’t until the end of season 2, after the 2021 competition, that Aldama and Marshall met up again to reconcile.
“I would never have predicted the fallout between the two of them,” Cheer creator and director Greg Whiteley says. “The two of them mean so much to each other. And it’s more than just a relationship between a coach and a teammate. They really have, over the last few years, created a bond. And that feels more to me like a family.”
“Like any family, those relationships can get messy and complicated. And that certainly happened when we were filming,” he continues, adding, “That was a storyline that I wouldn’t have predicted.”
As for any regrets over doing DWTS and what happened with Marshall, Aldama says, “I was very grateful to have that opportunity… I think the team was very supportive of me.”
Cheer season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.